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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Married to the Military

By Jocelyn Green
May 30, 2010

Randy Baker is a mother to five daughters, ages 11, 8, 6, 3 and 1. She cuts the grass and clips coupons from the Sunday paper. She fixes broken toys and broken hearts. She single-handedly moved her entire household.

She is not a single mom; she is a military wife. While her husband took a vow to his marriage, he also swore an oath to his country. And when the time comes for him to serve, she serves too.

The challenges of a deployment are daily and relentless, but the mission is not impossible.

Finding hope on the home front
While their husbands fight a physical enemy abroad, military wives face unseen foes in a battle of the mind. A study published in January 2010 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that out of 250,000 active-duty Army wives whose husbands had deployed, 36.6 percent had at least one mental health diagnosis, such as depression, anxiety or a sleep disorder.

“My mind is something I have had to continually overcome,” says Baker, an Air Force wife who has weathered four deployments. “I had water pipes break, car problems and sick kids all going at the same time. Emotional issues are much harder than those things. Sometimes my biggest setback is a pity party.”

To redirect her thoughts, Baker uses a “thankfulness journal” her pastor’s wife suggested. The Bakers attend First Assembly Worship Center in Alamogordo, N.M.

“When I feel discouraged I list things I’m thankful for in a little book,” Baker says. “I feel so light and free when I go back and read my entries. I also attend Bible studies that carry me through. Some weeks I feel like I can’t wait until Sunday just to be in church.”

Army wife Donna Griebling, who attends Calvary Assembly of God in Carthage, N.Y., says she doesn’t think she could get through a deployment without her faith.

“Especially when you start having anxiety and thoughts of something happening to your husband while he’s at war,” she says. “That’s when I know the enemy is trying to put things in my head, and I turn to the Bible and people from church who can pray for me.”

Baker admits that, while she does not like deployments, she sees how God has used them to bring her and her husband closer to Him.

“During a particularly hard time I prayed, ‘God, You know what is going to happen today, and You can give me all the tools to deal with it.’ Sometimes I can’t even believe all that He sees me capable of.”

Solo duty survival strategies
A military wife’s spiritual and emotional battles can be won or lost depending upon her coping strategies. Now on her fifth deployment, National Guard Army wife Starlett Henderson copes in part by recognizing her limits.

“I pay someone to do what I can’t manage in the home and property departments — such as yard work and small appliance repairs,” says Henderson, co-founder of Army Wife Network. Henderson also reads to keep her mind busy and tackles a variety of projects.

Army wife Janet McIntosh uses household organizational tactics suggested by management coach and author Kathy Peel ( Peel teaches household leaders to organize their homes using seven departments: time management and scheduling; home and property; food; special events; finances; friends and family; and self-management.

“Learning to organize my home into those seven departments did wonders,” says McIntosh. “I found self-management to be the most valuable. Now I have learned I need to take care of me as well.”

Air Force wife Alane Pearce adjusts her personal expectations.

“When I realized I didn’t have to do it all every day,” she says, “the stress of the deployment lessened. I hired someone to clean my house for a month to give me a break when I was overwhelmed by some emotional health issues.”

Reinforcements to the rescue
First lady Michelle Obama is forging a national commitment to support military families, but no government initiative can replace what individuals and churches can do for one another.

“The high tempo of recurring deployments in close succession is taking a heavy toll on families,” says Chaplain (Col.) Scott McChrystal, military/VA representative for the Chaplaincy Department of the Assemblies of God. “This provides an opportunity for the church to make a difference.”

Many military wives are reluctant to ask for support, even when they need it. For those who want to provide reinforcements, McIntosh recommends offering specific help: “Give her a night of babysitting. If she’s having trouble with the car, offer the number for a good handyman. Maybe we make managing deployments look easy, but that doesn’t mean that it is. That doesn’t mean there aren’t nights that I’m bawling into my pillow, living with that fear that my husband may not even come home. The biggest thing that helps me through is a support system.”

When Marine wife Bethany Revenaugh lived in Kailua, Hawaii, and her husband was deployed, she was housebound with two sick babies (ages 7 months and 2 years old) for nearly two weeks.

“One of the ladies from my church [First Assembly of God in Kaneohe] called me up and prayed for us,” says Revenaugh. “She also went to the store for me.” Revenaugh says her neighbors were her “angels” during that deployment, visiting her, watching her children and cutting her grass.

“Being involved in Calvary Assembly of God has helped my whole family,” says Griebling. “They prayed the hedge of protection over my husband before he left, and while he was gone people took turns sending him care packages. There is something to do for the whole family all week at the church, which helped us stay busy. They even put together military appreciation dinners for military families.”

Baker’s church in New Mexico has been a great source of encouragement for her daughters.

“My girls are a part of Missionettes and have developed strong friendships with the women of this ministry,” she says. “On several holidays, we walked into church and our children’s pastor, Jeff Sowers (who was once in the military), told the girls, ‘Your dad wishes he could be with you right now.’ Those words are huge to a kid! I am so grateful for the church where God has placed us during these deployments.”

Being a military spouse — and many more husbands are joining this group — requires emotional, physical, mental and spiritual stamina. But while being “married to the military” means sacrifice, a supportive community of faith can help families continue living life to the fullest.

JOCELYN GREEN, a former Coast Guard wife, is the author of Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (Moody Publishers 2008) and co-author of Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage From the War in Iraq & Afghanistan (AMG Publishers 2009).

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